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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Why Republicans Lose Latinos


There is more to getting the Latino vote than watching Sofia Vergara in an episode of "Modern Family." That's the lesson from a shockingly ignorant e-mail sent out by a Republican Senate candidate in an urbane blue state.

This latest Republican candidate to try to think like a Latino, and thereby successfully showing a profound ignorance of (and appalling condescension towards) all things "Latino," is the party's sacrificial lamb candidate for United States Senate in New Jersey, Jeff Bell. You may not have heard of Bell, but you've heard of his opponent, the formerly-all-over-the-Twitterverse, former Newark mayor Cory Booker.

The common Republican inside-the-Beltway establishment wisdom is that Republicans need to be sensitive on certain "Latino" issues, or else they will never get enough Latino votes to ever win nationally. Ever.

Democrats hear or read this, and start laughing, chortling, and falling off their chairs. 

Yesterday, Bell sent around a fundraising appeal centering on how Republicans need to stop being "unwelcoming" to Latinos in order to gain their votes. It is a hilarious piece that illustrates how an old white man who has spent too much time in the Beltway and probably absolutely no time with any conservative Latinos thinks he will appeal to Latinos who are legitimate voters. 

Democrats find this funny, because it gives them a living, breathing caricature of their ideal political foil: an old, rich, out-of-touch white guy as to whom they can imply the pejorative adjectives "racist" and "elitist" and "country club." 

Not so hilarious -- except for Democrats already nursing bruises and cramps from laughing too hard -- is Bell's attack on Republican President Ronald Reagan's 1986 immigration reform bill.  For many conservatives nationally, attacking Reagan is tantamount to heresy. For New Jersey Republicans, attacking Reagan, attacking your own party (e.g., the state party has not adopted the Republican Party's national platform) and having your state party leader (aka The Next President of the United States) holding hands with the House Majority Leader are all required actions to demonstrate the requisite appeal...to Democratic voters.

But there's more. The ignorance is profound and not limited to Bell. As a Latino professional conservative myself, one with significant civil liberties and libertarian tendencies (that's the lawyer in me), I deconstruct the e-mail Bell's campaign sent out below.  The e-mail's verbiage is indented, with my commentary following.

Ronald Reagan once said, "Latinos are Republicans, they just don't know it yet." 

This ignores the huge cultural differences between peoples with different nations of origin, and by extension makes the unjustified assumption that Latin American colonization was the same as North American colonization. Mexicans are not the same as Cubans. Costa Ricans are not the same as, well, Puerto Ricans (who have absolutely no dog in the immigration issue yet are treated as if they should).  For most "Latinos" there is no pan-Latino identity whatsoever. That is a myth held by dumb gringos and gringas who succeed at showing off their ignorance every time they try to show off how smart they are.  

At most, there is a shared ancestral tongue stemming from the common nation, Spain, which colonized most of Latin America (the exceptions being the Portuguese whose influence in Brazil remains to this day, Haiti, a few Caribbean islands like Aruba, Belize, Suriname and Guyana) and a common predominant religious denomination in the Roman Catholic Church. But this ignores the formidable indigenous populations of Latin America which -- unlike the American Indian -- readily absorbed the colonials. Latin American colonization was not like that of the Thirteen Colonies. While Spanish architecture, language and civil and legal systems were established throughout Latin America, the population's large native component meant that some indigenous customs continued and became integrated into what developed into national cultures. Those cultures, however, should not be assumed to have been dominated by the Western (i.e., Western European / North American) cultural values, largely parallel with the Judeo-Christian religious culture which underpinned Western European societies of the colonial and industrial eras.  

In fact, in much of academia and increasingly among Latino activists, the Spanish/European/Western influences on culture, economics and values are rejected in an attempt to downplay -- if not erase altogether -- the influence of the European imperialist conquistadors. I theorize this rejection is demonstrated in nothing less than the evolving replacement of the adjective "Hispanic" originating from the name of the predominant nation of origin, Spain, with its European-rejecting replacement, "Latino." 

Although Western culture may dominate the establishment of the Latin American colonies and young nations of the 19th Century, it is a stretch to say this dominance extended to the general population still influenced by native tribal culture.  Hence, using the largely Catholic populations of Latin America as evidence suggesting that most Latin American immigrants have "traditional values" is only true if you recognize the true traditional values, which are not the same values we think of north of the Mexican border.

The Roman Catholic Church and other Christian denominations predominate in Latin America, and within those faiths a socialist theology has a heavy influence. The result is two-fold: the great majority of uneducated, unskilled migrants have become acclimated to a moral rationale for their dependence and sense of entitlement, while the relatively wealthy minority receives an often-explicit message that they must atone for their achievement. In addition, while obedience is the order of the day in many Latin American cultures and can be confused for the value of piety often sought by the more religious, in nearly all Latin American societies the governments have been viewed as autocratic, oligarchic, somewhat despotic and often corrupt. One consequence is that government authority can be seen as deriving from fear rather than from respect of the mutual consent of the governed. From this consequence it often follows that declining repression results not in the flourishing of liberty and individual rights, but in an emboldened disrespect for authority of all kinds. Newcomers bringing such attitudes to this country can hardly be expected to see the value in being good citizens instead of opportunistic scavengers.

The accepted wisdom that Latinos are more inclined to be "conservatives" and have "traditional values" is based on the fallacy that the exception proves the rule.  There are exceptions who possess traits and values demonstrated by the successful within each Latino national culture (such as it is), but within each such culture, the successful are distinct minorities! Those traits, those values, they are held by only a small portion of that subgroup. But in politics, it is not about the exceptions. Politics and warfare are the ultimate numbers games. Numbers win. And among the larger population the predominant values and practices are those of dependence, irresponsibility and entitlement-seeking. This is why many mainland-born Puerto Ricans, with all the advantages of United States birthright citizenship since World War I, remain mired in poverty and often lag newcomers on educational metrics, three generations after the 1950's "Operation Bootstrap" encouraged thousands of Puerto Rican islanders to migrate to the mainland.
More Jeff Bell: "Maybe that's politically incorrect to repeat in 2014. But I do agree with the premise behind [Reagan's] assertion: if the Republican Party makes the case to them, Hispanics will vote GOP." 
Here's the problem. Many Latin American countries are run by heavy welfare state, socialist governments which deliberately induce dependence to foster control.  There is no reason, none whatsoever, for naturalized Latin Americans accustomed to socialist government programs in their countries of origin to come here and seek to work for what they used to get for free over there.  Those countries produce migrants who overwhelmingly seek out government assistance, are uneducated and unskilled. There are exceptions in every migrant group, but remember: The exceptions never prove the rule. 
Bell: "But they do have a problem now. Our party has been unwelcoming. Republican members in Congress have refused to consider a path to legalization for those who came here illegally over the years or an expanded guest worker program that is open to low-skilled workers, not just Ph.D.'s. President Reagan tried to solve this problem in 1986, but the law he signed that year left out access for immigrants who want to come here and work temporarily without becoming citizens. It's led to the crisis we have today of millions of people who came from Mexico and elsewhere and simply stayed because neither the law -- which actually makes it a misdemeanor -- nor our border security encourage people to come here the right way."
The last sentence alone, read literally, declares that it is our border security which is the problem, not the preponderance nor encouragement of illegal immigration itself.  It logically follows that more border security equals more of a problem, so less border security is desired. Bell may not say it, but I will: Most Americans will read and hear this and think of the one dreaded word: Amnesty.

And most potential Republican voters in New Jersey may stay home on election day for that one reason. After all, concern about one issue, by so-called "single issue" voters, may be as likely to motivate people to vote as it is likely to induce them to stay home.
Bell: "I like Rush Limbaugh and have been interviewed by him on other topics, but I have to say that I fundamentally disagree with his assertion that those who immigrate here from Mexico are registered Democrats in waiting. Hispanics in the U.S. have the highest rate of business creation among all ethnic groups -- and more than double the national rate." 

This statement shows how statistics, even if true, can be deceptive. Let us just assume that this statement is literally true. Even so, it does not prove that Latinos are a fertile, undeveloped Republican voting bloc. It means only that there is a small segment of Latinos, the segment that achieves, that is entrepreneurial, to which Republicans may have added appeal.  

Again, politics is a numbers game. A candidate incompetent to realize that is, very simply, an incompetent candidate.

Entrepreneurs, no matter the culture, are the distinct minority. But it is important to understand why that is the case. Latino entrepreneurs migrating to America are not only seeking opportunity; in most cases they are fleeing oppressive cultures in which their achievement justifies their target status. Latino entrepreneurs, no matter their background, know instinctively that their success, as modest as it may be, is not because of their culture. Rather, it is often in spite of their culture. These are cultures in which the "wealthy" need bodyguards and often must bribe their way to security. This entrepreneur micro-segment of the Latino population should be Republican, but having Republicans apologize for the rich sends a signal that Republicans will not defend them here either. So they come here, become citizens, and don't vote because there is no candidate who looks to protect their real interests.

Virtually all of Latin America lacks any tradition of private property being thought of as safe and likely to be passed down over the generations. These are countries where the wealthy send their wealth -- and often, their children -- out of the country! (Disagree? Name one stable, economically developed free-market democracy in all of Latin America. Name one country thought of as a "safe haven." Go ahead. Yeah, I couldn't either.) 

There is a misguided notion, voiced often by people too smart to be that dumb, that voters will vote for Republicans because they are better, on average, than their Democratic opponents. This theory ignores the third choice, that voters will choose to stay home. As each election brings a fresh wave of commentary decrying ever-declining voter turnout figures, it is obvious more and more "potential Republican voters" are choosing none of the above.

Entrepreneurs are the minority, and Bell expresses the fallacy that the exception proves the rule. Entrepreneurs and achievers are never the rule; they are the exception. Entrepreneurs also illustrate few traits of any non-entrepreneurs who just happen to share their ancestral heritage and language.  It is intellectually dishonest to suggest that the traits demonstrated by entrepreneurs can be used as evidence of the presence of those same traits in the larger population segment which, almost as if by definition, rejects those traits. 
Bell: "Moreover, they tend to share conservatives' beliefs that life begins at conception and marriage is composed of a husband and a wife."
So they may be pro-life? That impulse may be successfully outweighed by the economic appeal of our cradle-to-grave socialism. This sounds like a weak argument to deny or delude oneself into ignoring the truth. Besides, a single-issue pro-life voter may be equally discouraged by some of the other positions I've deconstructed above.
Bell: "They are as good a prospect at voting Republican as any immigrants to America from anywhere in the world."
Even if that statement were literally true, that simply means that they might have a higher probability of voting Republican than other immigrants who choose to become citizens.  But when most immigrant groups yield very few Republicans, this statement becomes worthless. 
Bell: "If elected, I'm headed to the U.S. Senate to fight for a comprehensive immigration reform plan that includes a generous, market-based guest worker program so we don't repeat the crisis that stems from 1986. I'll fight against the special interests like Big Labor to get this done. As we achieve success, I believe Hispanic voters will move toward the GOP. Immigration may rank for many of them relatively low in a poll of issue priorities, but our party's stance on it has served as a barrier for them to consider the rest of our agenda that would appeal to Hispanics." 

The last sentence strongly implies that Hispanics will not vote Republican unless the party adopts an open-borders, amnesty-for-all policy. 

But the real problem in any general election is that America's long-term jobless, of all backgrounds, hear a common message: You're giving our jobs to foreigners. 

How this is a recipe for winning, even for candidates in a Democratic primary, is a mystery. How a Republican can voice this and try to win in a general election is not even a mystery. 

It is a fantasy. 




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